Influencers are ordinary people with extraordinary platforms. Their ability to influence others stems from their inherent relatability. 62% of consumers trust the recommendation of influencers above traditional celebrities, and this is because consumers identify with the influencers they support. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, or DEI, have been given a new platform with the advent of social media, and influencers have only strengthened it with their unscripted, authentic commentary and self-expression. Being a newly developing space, the Creator Economy holds tremendous power in emboldening underrepresented and marginalized groups. Moreover, it can do so organically given the culture of social media and the nature of influencer marketing. Brands seeking to diversify their audience and ambassadors can do so through diverse, inclusive, and equitable Creator collaborations. By forming partnerships that hold meaning for both the Brand and Creator, Brands can deepen their cultural impact, promote a community of inclusivity, and empower those who feel powerless.
Defining Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are three words that are frequently used interchangeably with little awareness as to what distinguishes each one, especially when referred to by the aforementioned acronym. While they all share an underlying theme—to honor different perspectives—they are not the same. Diversity denotes the differences being represented and the range of perspectives being presented or considered. Equity is not equality. Rather it’s creating a space for equality by understanding the barriers that bar certain groups from equal treatment. Inclusion is accommodating diversity equitably. Inclusion fosters a sense of belonging within a diverse environment.
DEI Representation Gaps
Marginalized and underrepresented groups encompass various socioeconomic statuses, gender identities, religious affiliations, sexual orientations, races, ethnicities, ages, and abilities. Such groups have been underrepresented or misrepresented in advertisements and popular culture. These groups make up mass sectors of our global population, and to turn a blind eye to them is to turn a blind eye to our humanness. This is not only unethical—it’s poor business practice. Expanding Brand representation to include these groups benefits both the Brand and the people it includes. By diversifying partnerships, launching inclusive campaigns, and treating Brand partners equitably, Brands can connect with new consumers authentically and positively contribute to our collective human evolution.
DEI Through Influencer Marketing
Influencers have broken many boundaries, including diverse representation in traditional media spaces. The rise of Creators and the Creator Economy is greatly credited to the shift in the mentality of younger generations. Youth culture values diversity, equity, and inclusion so much so that many of their purchasing decisions are based upon a Brand’s commitment to these values. Brands that do not align with those values have an expiration date and will fail to reach generations of tomorrow, let alone the generations of today. Brands must learn to drop their time-honored ways, and get with the times to honor diversity in novel ways. This is not out of obligation. This is to grant dignified treatment to all, including the people behind Brands and the consumers they seek to target.
One-Of-A-Kind Is Humankind
50% of Gen Z view themselves as part of a minority group, and 97% are active users on social media. Brands that choose to forgo diverse collaborations with influencers are actively choosing to ignore a highly relevant consumer base. To dismiss diversity and relegate it to tokenism is to deny the story we each hold as individuals on this earth. No two people are the same, but that does not mean either should be treated unfairly. We can account for differences without subjecting each other to hierarchical systems and restrictive stereotypes. We can promote diversity through the inclusion and equitable treatment of all.
Sustainable apparel Brand Parade is beloved by Gen Z for its inclusive advertisements and unfiltered content. Parade takes an active stance against discriminatory practices and doctored photography by showing Creators of all sizes, races, gender identities, and sexual orientations unabashedly as they are. Adidas is another Brand that has embedded DEI into its ethos and has done so with pride and without shame. Amanda Rajkumar, an Executive Board Member in the Global Human Resources People and Culture department at Adidas, phrased the Brand’s stance simply, yet potently: “We don’t see it as lowering the bar, but as widening the gate for those who have not had the same starting point in life.” To restrict those you serve for fear of subversion restricts the evolution of your Brand and humanity alike.
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Cater to Your Consumers
Consumers want to see themselves represented in advertisements and content, especially those created by the Brands they support. For a Brand to forge an empathetic bond with its audience, it must know its audience. For a Brand to grow its audience, it must diversify its target market. Both can be done through thoughtful research, cultural immersion, and the inclusion of right-fit Creators. Consumers trust influencers because they can relate to them, and, as such, influencer marketing capitalizes on relatable communication. Consumers who see their faces represented, their voices echoed, and their perspectives consciously and subconsciously acknowledged are the consumers who form empathetic bonds with Brands—and they can come to support these Brands fiercely. By sensitizing yourself to the nuanced needs of your audience and partnering with relevant Creators, you can reach more people in more meaningful ways.
Broaden the View
A Brand can only benefit from growing its consumer base and reach. A Brand can only benefit from having more than one group of loyalists. A Brand can only benefit from taking a human stance. Products or services are not reserved for any one group but can be limited in the types of groups they serve. Makeup, for example, may not be a product used by everyone, but it can certainly be used by people of different races, gender identities, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic classes. That’s not to say a Brand must abandon its identity to include new ones, but more so that a Brand must examine the many identities it can serve to include new customers. By broadening your market, you include new and varied perspectives that add unique and dynamic ways of thinking and doing, allowing your Brand to stand out and stand up for what’s right.
Diversity for the sake of diversity can feel tone-deaf to the people it includes and the Brand it represents. Diversity must be approached with awareness and an understanding of the differences we hold rather than attempting to blindly homogenize them for blanket equality. The infamous Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial controversy is one such moment in advertising history, a moment that sought to capitalize on the political zeitgeist with little cultural awareness around the message it was spreading. Needless to say, it failed to accommodate the Brand perception and the perception of others in ways that expanded the conversation and broadened the view. Instead, it read as forced, myopic, and ignorant to the cultural dialogue at large and the culture that surrounded the Brand. A similar blunder was recently witnessed with the Dylan Mulvaney Bud Light collaboration.
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The importance of authenticity in advertising is undeniable: 90% of millennials name authenticity as a key purchasing driver. Authenticity is a major selling point because it’s not informed by the masses, it is informed by original expression and empathetic connection. Authenticity is a qualitative metric, one that signals difference and originality of thought. True authenticity is unmatched: It’s one of a kind. True authenticity is transparent. True authenticity is detectable.
When diversifying your Brand representation, it is also important to not only do so authentically, but in ways that honor the authentic voices of those who support it. We cannot assume nor assume to know the experiences of others, and we cannot expect every person under a categorical umbrella to share the exact experience. If you lack the cultural awareness and personal experience to navigate different demographic sectors authentically, allow those who identify with these sectors to do so themselves. Pass them the microphone, and amplify their voices as they amplify that of your Brand. Consumers historically support Brands that break historic barriers authentically. Brands that think outside the box and use diversity as more than a box to tick can garner financial gain and cultural respect.
Fenty Beauty is one such Brand that did so nobly, notably, and authentically. Rihanna’s makeup Brand revolutionized and disrupted the foundation of her industry by offering consumers a foundation with 50 different shades. The line was developed to be inclusive of traditionally overlooked skin tones—from the palest to the darkest. Rihanna has not only achieved billionaire status as a result of this, but she has also won the hearts and respect of billions of people who once felt their looks were overlooked by the beauty industry.
Cultivate Inclusive Environments
Inclusivity does not exclude and is not limited to matters of race and gender. Creating an inclusive environment around your Brand is creating one that is accessible to all and one in which people feel like they belong. Through the use of conscious messaging, Brands can approach language with intention and transparency. Speaking consciously is an inclusive act, one that refuses to turn a deaf ear to voices once silenced. It is one that communicates respectfully. It is one that is brave enough to embrace or coin new ways of communication, evolving current language limitations.
Conscious language understands that not everyone has the same abilities as you. The use of alt text, for example, gives reading access to visually impaired users. Making language accessible to those who see differently not only makes them feel seen but allows them to connect with your Brand directly.
Design is another element that can be given conscious consideration. Rare Beauty by Selena Gomez contains its blushes and liquid highlighters in accessible applicators. The applicator, like many other things in the Brand universe, was designed to be inclusive. In this case, the physical shape of the applicators was developed for ease of use by people with physical disabilities. A design move that helps the movement of others can move society at large. By excluding groups your Brand can serve, you limit the reach of your products and services. It does not behoove a Brand to be exclusionary, yet it does behoove it to be exclusively itself. If your Brand cannot put itself in the shoes of consumers, it can give relevant Creators a platform on which to stand.
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Glue the Gaps With Glewee
While not all Brands have the resources to develop accessible alternatives, they can grow their consumer base by diversifying their Creator partnerships. By representing the consumers your Brand serves through authentic influencer marketing campaigns, your Brand can reach new heights culturally and commercially. If your Brand would like to expand its reach and connect with new audiences through influencers, Glewee is the platform you seek. Glewee connects Brands with pre-vetted Creators for start-to-finish collaborations, bringing authentic partnerships to life. Our all-inclusive platform is designed to elevate our users while evolving the Creator Economy. From discovering diverse Creators to launching inclusive campaigns, Glewee empowers Brands with the tools, connections, and technology needed to create impactful change and formidable Brand moments. We look forward to welcoming you and your unique Brand story so others too may do the same.